• Rob Arbery

Response to the Officers Report on Agenda Item 44 ETS

BADGE & PossAbility People’s Response to Agenda Item 44: Officers’ Report for November ET&S: Emergency Active Travel measures - Blue Badge holder parking and access for disabled people

Dear Amy Thank you for advising us by email dated 22nd November 2020 that the Officer’s Report - requested by you as a formal response to our Deputation of 29th September to ET&S Committee - had been published. Unfortunately as stated in our earlier email, this has not allowed sufficient time for us to respond by way of a Deputation within the Committee forum. We (BADGE & PossAbility people) do find this extremely disappointing in that this is not the spirit of consultation and co-working which we have voluntarily entered into via our attendance and input via the Advisory Group Meetings that we’ve attended since 18th August. Whilst it’s true that the Council Procedures do not permit automatic right of reply from the public to an Officer’s Report, nor a repeat Deputation within a set time period, this was a report that you ordered in direct response to our Deputation - and as such we would have hoped for the opportunity to include our specific response to the Officer Report to be considered alongside the Report at Committee. We are also disappointed that Rob and I attended a Covid Advisory Group Meeting on Monday 16th November, chaired by Mark Prior, the Reporting Officer, which you also attended, Amy. It would have been an opportunity to share and discuss the report - in the way that other reports relating to Tranche 1 and 2 have been shared and discussed, and there was certainly opportunity for the Author to advise us of the imminent publication. Having read the Report, our responses are annotated to be read in conjunction: 3.2 “with the aims of helping vulnerable people in the city and promoting health and wellbeing” Blue Badge holders are indeed vulnerable people in the city, whose health and wellbeing is underpinned by being able to equally access essential journeys and amenities, by means of adequate proximity parking - the central ethos of the Government’s Blue Badge scheme. 3.3 It’s been recognised and was in fact the subject of another deputation to the same Committee Meeting, that the mechanisms for online consultation were not widely and equally accessible to all, and in fact significantly disadvantaged people with learning disabilities, low vision or those people without access to large desktop devices in order to fully take in proposed changes. Further, members of the public weren’t aware that some of the changes were afoot, and so the idea that they would notionally access the TRO Portal to check if their lives might be affected was and is wholly unrealistic. Additionally, where the implemented provision deviated from the Plan (e.g. Old Town Bartholomew Square), this further hindered genuine consultation. 3.4 When ET&S Committee signed off the initial Transport Action Plan, they were informed that specific consultation had taken place with disabilities and equalities stakeholders. As attested by the public statement from PossAbility people, no such consultation that was specific to the overarching Equalities Impact Assessment nor to the specific details of the Covid Tranche 1 plans had taken place. There was no subsequent consultation on the reworked EIA either, in the sense that no draft was shared for our comments prior to submission, despite our role within the Advisory Group. 4.4 PSED does indeed recognise the need for fair and proportionate balance - and this is precisely why the notion of ‘reasonable adaptation’ is included within the Equalities Framework. The expectation is that, where absolutely necessary, (and once all other avenues have been demonstrably explored) an alternative compensatory provision must be worked in, if a proposed change is predicted to have a disproportionately negative impact on those people with the protected characteristic. To be clear, if in creating a new favourable scenario (e.g. Madeira Drive for safe outdoor socially distanced exercise for health and wellbeing for non disabled people) results in a disproportionate impact on disabled people, (e.g. disabled people are now unable to get to the newly created safe area because the parking is too far away) this is direct discrimination. 4.5 Consultation on the superficial LCWIP principles can not and should not be equated with consultation on specific Covid Transport Action measures. NONE of the Covid schemes/specifics (and subsequent related issues raised by BADGE & PossAbility people) were contained within the LCWIP presentation at the online meeting attended by the Possability People representative. The Tranche 1 bid was sent to Government the following day - so the very timeline demonstrates that specific consultation could not and did not take place. It was misleading for this to have been presented to Committee as Covid Consultation. To date, the Equalities Impact Assessment has still not been formally shared with BADGE or Possability people by The Equalities Team, and we have not been invited to comment on its evolution. 5.3 Again, this Report neglects to state explicitly that there are only 7 bays for the whole of the seafront stretch, which is further compounded by: a/ the inaccessibility and safety issues of the repositioned bays b/ the loss of the 60% back up of Pay & Display options C/ the (not Covid) TRO Plan to remove the disabled parking bays (TRO30a) on Adelaide Crescent & Palmeira Gardens in the bi-annual ‘sweep up and recharge’ of Blue Badge residential bays. That the Council should be proposing a sweeping removal of those bays because ‘a resident has reported they are underused’ is quite frankly, astounding, given the very high profile issues with seafront parking. Whilst not part of Covid Emergency Transport Action Plan, it’s another example of discrimination. Why is the Blue Badge community required to prove that the bays are being well used, when the same is not required of residential permit parking, or indeed pay & display parking? There is no ruling governing how much of the day or night a Blue Badge bay must be in use. Yet the onus has been on ‘prove they are needed or lose them’. Moreover, residents being asked to pay to retain bays that were once paid for at the point of installation, that require no additional work, is also morally questionable, as well as asking a resident to pay for a bay, that any Blue Badge holder can then legitimately park in. This is pertinent to the seafront issues, because when the summer arrives, and the pandemic has abated, disabled people will, like non disabled people, be keen to get to the seafront again, which means proximity parking - quite possibly hoping to use the bays on Adelaide and Palmeira that are under threat. The failure to consider this ‘double disproportionate disadvantage’ for disabled residents and visitors in this popular seafront Zone M area is worrying. BADGE sent a formal objection to the proposed removal of the Bays and the enforced ‘repeat tariff’ approach since we know some distressed members have already paid an ‘admin fee’ to protect these existing bays - even though they would have already been paid for when first requested - and others will and do park in them. We submitted photographic evidence of the bays in use across various days and times, even though there is no requirement to ‘prove’ their use, and would like to know what monitoring the Council Team undertook in addition to one member of the public’s comment, that led to proposing such a sweeping reduction in bays. 5.4 & 5.5 There was no consultation with any disabled groups or Blue Badge holders regarding the design and positioning of the new bays. Had there been consultation with PossAbility people (BADGE wasn’t formed at that point) it would have been pointed out that the bays are still not long enough to permit rear ramp access, the buffer zone isn’t as wide as the doors on larger vehicles and trying to board/disembark from vehicles in these new disabled bays is extremely difficult for anyone in an adult sized wheelchair or electric wheelchair/scooter. Officers have responded by saying that the new bays are better than what was before - but this does not equate to being safe and fit for purpose. The RSA conducted in June (Report published in July) identified a red flag collision zone between high sided vehicles and cyclists, for the disabled bays at the bottom of John Street. The Council’s response was “no action/ monitor”. We were informed that a second Safety Audit took place w/c 7th September, with 2 days specifically allocated to looking at the parking bays. We have asked for the results of the monitoring, and for a summary of the RSA Report, but to date, the Response is still being worked on. We have had verbal confirmation from Mark Prior that there are no safety issues with either of the sets of Blue Badge bays. However the bays opposite John Street still have to be accessed by cutting across the cycle lane, and having tried to use those bays (taking up 2 spaces if in a van) it’s clear that vision is restricted and both entering and exiting these bays is a stressful experience, particularly with fast bikes and traffic build up. At the very beginning, BADGE offered up suggestions for better parking options on the North side of the A259, but these have not been pursued. Blue Badge holders have told us that they are now not even trying to park up to go to their own seafront. Our concerns regarding practicality, ease of use, safety and the potential for a serious accident when trying to use these disabled bays, remain. We are now 8 weeks further on since ET&S and there has been no progress on Seafront Access issues. We also raise the concern that the analysis of the results of the Consultation around the A259 Seafront Cycle Lane have not (to our knowledge) been shared publicly. This remains the only one of the Tranche 1 scheme that has not been fed back to the public and is of key relevance to BADGE and PossAbility Community given the disproportionate impact on Seafront Access for people with reduced mobility. We know that members of our community submitted objections and concerns via the consultation, so why has this information not been released? We believe that specific feedback on use /avoidance of those disabled bays is sitting within that part of the consultation. This is especially pertinent as the Projects team elected not to conduct the onsite consultation they had suggested, did not invite a contribution to the second RSA, and did not take up our offer to survey our members on the Seafront Blue Badge Bays that we offered. Coupled with the delay in releasing the RSA from early September, this remains a key area of concern. 5.6 Whilst we have been attending meetings since 18th August, these meetings are still informal, and not recorded with minutes. We were under the impression following your Chair’s Address and response to the Deputation, that the meetings were to be formalised, with Remit and Terms of Reference etc. alongside a review of the Active Travel Forum, but this has not happened to date. 5.7 Geraldine, as Chief Officer for Possability people will comment separately on the specifics and the activities to date of the working partnership with PossAbility People referenced. 5.8 & 5.9 Fails to recognise the distress caused by the closure of 14 bays, the inadequacy and the breach of the ‘suitable alternative provision’ PSED requirement, by shunting Blue Badge holders 3/4 mile east where only 3 spaces awaited (one of which was being taken up by a council contractor on the day we met with Council Officers). This did not constitute ‘proximity parking’ and since it directly impacted on disabled people and their access to the Madeira Drive/Pier amenities and caused significant distress, in order to make a positive provision for non disabled people, (to exercise and physically distance and maintain their mental and physical health) this strongly points to a direct discrimination. Furthermore, as evidenced by Members feedback both to BADGE and Possability people, on social media, and via the consultation, several people experienced the humiliation of having to spell out exactly why they needed to get to the Changing Places facilities, in some cases being told that they’d got 10 minutes and then needed to be back out again. This contravenes a person’s basic human rights to be afforded the same dignities of a non disabled person, who does not need to explain their bodily functions to a stranger who will then decide whether to let them pass. Despite these concerns being flagged up, the indignity remained for the duration until the one way system was opened up. 5.10 & 5.11 BADGE & PossAbility People are relieved to see the former bays reinstated now that Madeira Drive has been reopened one way, and the increased Blue Badge parking will enable better access for holders to Madeira Drive upon completion. Being included in the Plans for the staged reopening was especially helpful as it highlighted the optimal solution to meet the needs of both the Traders and Blue Badge holders. 5.13 5.14 & 5.15 Bartholomew Square Blue Badge parking was not completed in accordance with the Plan. 4 overly large spaces were painted in rather than the 8 detailed on the Plan - again, without prior consultation. This resulted on one occasion in two cars parking within one wide space, meaning that there wasn’t space for the original driver to get back into their vehicle. Had there been a specific consultation with Blue Badge representatives, a fit for purpose provision could have been painted in from the outset, avoiding months of detrimental impact. We gave recommendations back in September, just before ET&S Committee, but we are still waiting for the parking to be fully implemented (although agreement seems to have been reached in principle). Long term parking for disabled people is not just for those who are working, but also for people who just want to spend longer than 3 hours in town. Again, there seems to be an expectation from the Council that Blue Badge holders must explain their movements and activities in order to be conceded the same basic variety of parking options that non disabled drivers already have. Again, we reiterate that Blue Badge schemes must offer proximity parking, which is why multi story car park options will often not meet the need, especially in our steep gradient streets of Brighton. 5.18 Again, this Report has omitted the pertinent detail - that there were only 4 Blue Badge bays to serve the whole London Road Area, of which 2 were removed. So whilst the revised TRO has reinstated 2 bays in a new location and tagged a single extra bay on, there is still a loss of parking options in that area, since the Pay & Display options have been significantly reduced. All in all, Blue Badge holders endured several months of 50% less designated parking without alternative provision being offered. 5.23 Badge & Possability people were not aware that disabled parking nearby is being monitored, or how this relates to the New Road restrictions (given the New Road bays are to serve that specific area and offer the only level access parking in an otherwise hilly part of town) and would like details on the locations, dates & times of the monitoring and when and how this information will be reviewed. In Conclusion, 8 weeks on from the last ET&S Committee, whilst the situation for Blue Badge holders has improved in parts, there is still a way to go, progress has been painfully slow, with little alternative provision being made in that interim time period , leaving Blue Badge holders waiting for the wider changes of TRO Amendments or Reversals before parking and access could be improved. Discussions regarding an improved consultation process for Tranche 2 have begun, but having read this Report, we are concerned that this Report both recognises the disproportionately negative impacts (7.10) that you as Chair of ET&S also referenced in your remarks at the September ET&S Committee, yet refuses to recognise that this constitutes discrimination. While we wait for the full reparation of parking and improvement to provision where needed, together with the RSA for the A259 Seafront, we will continue to use our best endeavours to represent our communities and advise on what is required in order to avoid a repeat of these issues and to ensure that Tranche 2 schemes offer equal and proportionate protection and enhancement for disabled people living, working and visiting our city, in line with their protected characteristics as set out in Public Sector Equalities Duties and our city’s inclusive values. Best Wishes Pippa Hodge Rob Arbery (BADGE) Geraldine Des Moulins (PossAbility People) ~23rd November 2020~

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